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S.J. OGILVIE-THOMSON, ED. The Index of Middle English Prose: Handlist XXIII: The Rawlinson Collection, Bodleian Library, Oxford.


The Index of Middle English Prose: Handlist XXIII: The Rawlinson Collection, Bodleian Library, Oxford. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2017. xl + 367 pp.

This is the third of Sarah Ogilvie-Thomson's IMEP indexes of Oxford collections, the previous ones being Handlists VIII (Oxford College Libraries, 1991) and XVI (Laudian Collection, 2000). While the gap between publications is longer in this case than that between her first and second publications, the volume itself is much thicker, and in terms of the output of IMEP volumes, she has kept in time with the rate of publications (IMEP VIII, XVI, XXIII).

As with all IMEP volumes, as well as the necessary, and very useful, preliminaries and end-material, there is an introduction in which Ogilvie-Thomson introduces the reader to Richard Rawlinson, his unsatisfactory family, the need to sell his brother Thomas's fine library, and his heroic recovery of much of it, together with other manuscripts, to the number of over 5,000. On his death in 1755, the Bodleian was faced with the task of housing his extraordinarily eclectic collection. Ogilvie-Thomson also explains her editorial practice, particularly the inclusion of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century transcribed and translated material from medieval texts, and recipes (always a problem in IMEP listings) even in sixteenth-century hands.

This is a fascinating volume and would probably repay reading from end to end (which this reviewer confesses to not having done). Instead (as reviewers tend to do), I have looked at those manuscripts in the Rawlinson collection, which I know well. This practice (while convenient to the reviewer) tests the indexer to the full, since the reviewer has spent more time with the manuscript than the indexer. MS Rawlinson A 381 is the best manuscript of the Group B recension of the Festial, and Ogilvie-Thomson properly lists all the Festial sermons it contains ([7] to [69]). (This is a return to IMEP's original practice, which was unfortunately proscribed for some years under different editorship from the present.) She suggests that the sermons have been "treated cursorily" (xxi), but that is all that is needed, as she says, when a collection has been edited. Her note on "Other texts" is exemplary in its completeness and provides a brief historiography of Festial sermons in relation to editions, articles, IPMEP, and IMEP itself.

The entries for John Gaytryge's sermon (The Lay Folks' Catechism) in MSS Rawlinson C 285 [ 12], an extract, and 288 [2] refer the reader to Anne Hudson's important articles "A New Look at the Lay-Folks' Catechism" and "The Lay Folks' Catechism: a Postscript" (Viator 16, 1985; 19, 1988) but not to my later "The Transmission and Circulation of The Lay Folks' Catechism," (1) which benefited much from Hudson's two articles and was followed, and its hypothesis confirmed, by Robert Swanson's "The Origins of'The Lay Folks' Catechism'" (Medium Aevum 60, 1991). This is not, of course, a criticism (for the reasons outlined above), but an attempt to indicate later scholarship on the subject that should be read after Hudson's seminal articles. Ogilvie-Thomson quite properly notes omissions and inconsistencies in other IMEP volumes in relation to this text: for example, that Gaytryge is not indexed in the Trinity College Cambridge volume "as its editor judged it to be verse" (it is included, she notes, in NIMEV and DIMEV). The question of whether it is verse or prose has been much discussed (see David Lawton's argument summarised in Powell, "The Transmission and Circulation," 72-73) and is perhaps unresolvable, but the fact of its omission in IMEP Handlist XI is important and should be added to any future amalgamated index of IMEP volumes.

As for material unknown to the present reviewer, two important pieces of information were revealed to me by this volume: one has already been incorporated into current research, and the other will become the subject of a future JEBS "Nota Bene." First, the volume alerted me to MS Rawlinson liturg. f. 36 and its version [5] of Caxton's Fifteen Oes (currently being edited by myself and Alexandra Barratt for the Middle English Texts series); secondly, it led me to another Prologue and Life of St Jerome, a very important discovery of a manuscript (MS Rawlinson D 112) that "has not been previously noted" (213). This is exactly what IMEP volumes should be doing, and one is grateful to them for such discoveries (easy to find with the summary list of contents, which precedes the index proper).

A slight cavil--entirely undeserved by Ogilvie-Thomson, since it is expressly not the aim of IMEP: Latin is not indexed in any way, apart from in the macaronic indexes at the end of IMEP volumes. For example, in the case of MS Rawlinson C 506, one might assume that Latin material (more likely than English verse, the other entirely justifiable exclusion) filled the gaps between entries [11] and [12], or between [12] and [13], or between [13] and [14]. (2) In the case of [13], Ogilvie-Thomson notes that this is an "English passage in a Latin conjuration to raise spirits," but for the others one must consult the manuscript. (3) The macaronic index properly notes a list of Latin and English herbal names in Works in Latin and English [A15]. As medievalist scholars have become increasingly interested in the total makeup of manuscripts, and as the blind spot with relation to Latin texts has only increased among English-speaking medievalists, it would be highly desirable now for there to be at least an indication of Latin (and verse, and even blank or missing folios) in the afternote to an entry, e.g., "followed by ten Latin medical recipes," "followed by an item in verse," "the following 5 folios are missing." However, that is a personal cavil, and one that, if implemented, would further delay the production of volumes.

While one must commiserate with Ogilvie-Thomson that the delights of working in Duke Humfrey's library when she began this volume gave way to the (temporary) horror of the Radcliffe Science Library, with her we must be grateful for the comfort of the new Weston Library (especially of its chairs in comparison with those of Duke Humfrey's), while agreeing that "it will never be the same, and I look back on the past with deep nostalgia, regret and gratitude"(vii).

Susan Powell, University of Salford (emerita), University of Leeds


(1.) In Late-Medieval Religious Texts and their Transmission, ed. A. J. Minnis (Cambridge: Brewer, 1993), 67-84.

(2.) [11] ends f. 26v, [12] begins f. 29r; [12] ends f. 29r, [13] begins f. 40r; [13] ends f. 40v, [14] begins f. 53r.

(3.) In practice, the online Quarto Catalogue reveals that f. 27r introduces English verse on bloodletting, that ff. 29v-31v contain a table and English verse, followed by two missing and five blank folios, that the conjuration begins on f. 39r and is followed by a Latin text, and that the whole of ff. 42-53 is missing.
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Author:Powell, Susan
Publication:The Journal of the Early Book Society for the Study of Manuscripts and Printing History
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2018
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